THE CREATORS OF A QUIET PLACE GIVE US THE SPACEMAN VS DINOSAURS MOVIE WE DIDN’T ASK FOR, BUT WE’LL TAKE IT NOW THAT WE HAVE IT
After a catastrophic crash on an unknown planet, pilot Mills (Adam Driver) quickly discovers he’s actually stranded on Earth…65 million years ago. Now, with only one chance at rescue, Mills and the only other survivor, Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), must make their way across an unknown terrain riddled with dangerous prehistoric creatures in an epic fight to survive. From the writers of A Quiet Place and producer Sam Raimi comes 65, a sci-fi thriller.
Written and directed by Scott Beck & Bryan Woods
Produced by Sam Raimi, Deborah Liebling and Zainab Azizi.
Also produced by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods.
Starring Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt, and Chloe Coleman.
Know ye, oh Prince, Princess, or however you wish to be referred to, that between the years when NOSFERATU shriveled in silence at the rising sun, and the rise of Skywalker in STAR WARS, there existed an age undreamed of… with jerky stop motion effects, miniatures, men in rubber suits, not quite invisible wires, and back drop screens lacking any depth. Hither came the auteurs, those filmmakers who tried to buck the limitations of special effects and budget to give us… A slew of absolutely shitty, albeit inspiring, movies.
But not all of the genre properties to come out before 1977 were offerings to the gods of dookie. It was the films that innovated effects that stood out and became classics. The aforementioned NOSFERATU and its use of lighting, camera angles, and mirrors. KING KONG and JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS with their stop motion, the PLANET OF THE APES series with its make up, and the STAR TREK TV series with its groundbreaking visual effects through use of miniatures. As we know, all this changed with STAR WARS, the event that raised the bar on visual effects and genre films.
There are some hidden gems in that time before STAR WARS, albeit mired by bad special effects. One of them is near and dear to my heart, THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT. What’s there not to dig about it? It’s based off a beloved Edgar Rice Burroughs (TARZAN OF THE APES) novel and features an Allies vs Axis adventure on a submarine during WWI. The heroes find themselves on a lost island populated by dinosaurs and cavemen. It’s an entertainment bacon schmorgesborg! Come on! Dinosaurs! Cavemen! U-Boats! Everyone vs.the Germans in WWI! What’s there not to like? Just one little thing… The special fucking effects.
You see, this is a Samuel Z. Arkhov production, and much like his previous soiree into the catalog of ERB with AT THE EARTH’S CORE (Another film chock filled with dinosaurs, cavemen and mind reading pterosaurs!), it appealed to preteen me. Heck, the film is even adapted and written for the screen by none other than THE Michael fucking Moorcock, creator of the Multiverse theory in fiction and Elric of Melnibone. The dinosaurs in these films are CLEARLY men in rubber suits, shot onto background screens with zero depth. Wait, did I say all the dinosaurs? No. The pteranodons are actually airplane gliders mocked up to resemble a flying dino. Oh Lord, the effects are downright awful and sinful. But to this day, I haven’t given one single shit about the quality of the effects in this film, and remains one of my favorite movies of all time.
Enter 65, the new Adam Driver film. From the moment I saw the first trailer, I knew this film was gonna bring back that 7 and 8 year old me. And I wasn’t wrong. As long as there are little boys and girls, Dinosaurs will remain near the top of the fiction bacon tree. It’s why properties like Turok, Son of Stone have been so popular for nearly 70 years (dinosaurs vs. Native Americans? Give me more!). Is it going to be a sleeper hit, like the writers’ A QUIET PLACE or the Blumhouse cyberpunk horror gem UPGRADE? I think it might be. And though it came in third at the weekend box office, making $12 Million behind horror franchise juggernaut SCREAM VI and boxing franchise juggernaut CREED III, I have hopes for the future of this niche sci-fi film, especially when it comes to home video. It touches so many nostalgic feels with me, I can’t help but be biased in my adoration of a movie which proves the perceptions of the viewer are paramount to enjoying it.
It’s not simply the dinosaur trope. From the opening crawl, 65 captured the attention of pre-teen Tom, with words reminding him of another beloved entertainment property, the post STAR WARS cult hit TV show, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.
Prior to the advent of mankind in the infinity of space, other civilizations explored the Heavens.
And then, after the cold open establishing our hero and his predicament…
Earth… 65 million years ago, a visitor crash landed on Earth.
I got chills. I knew at this moment this movie was made for me. And that BATTLESTAR GALACTICA opening narration?
“There are those who believe that life here began out there, far across the universe, with tribes of humans who may have been the forefathers of the Egyptians, or the Toltecs, or the Mayans. They may have been the architects of the great pyramids, or the lost civilizations of Lemuria or Atlantis. Some believe that there may yet be brothers of man who even now fight to survive far, far away, amongst the stars.”
Yes, this can and does lead to Ancient Alien theory, which I think is great fiction, like THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, and 65. Is it true science? Not anymore true than a spaceman fighting dinosaurs on a prehistoric earth.
Beck and Woods dip into their classic trope dish frequently, making it clear this movie is a homage to science fiction movies of all eras. And they nod to every generation, from ROBINSON CARUSO ON MARS to THE MARTIAN, AFTER EARTH, and all that’s in between. All of this also includes what some may perceive as outdated or overused tropes in cinematic entertainment. Yes, my friends, it means we got not only dinosaurs… but the daddy of all overused tropes: quicksand.
NOT THE QUICKSAND!
Yes, the quicksand, right down to the only manner you can save a person from quicksand with… a saproling! Quicksand is like the Ancient Indian Burial Ground. It’s not real. It doesn’t exist in reality. Now mentioning this in a review of a movie where a spaceman fights dinosaurs 65 million years ago might seem kind of silly, and if I was looking at this from a negative spectrum it would be. But I’m not. You see, the quicksand is just as much of an homage to classic dinosaur action films like VALLEY OF GWANGI. There was a time when tropes like quicksand were overused in nearly every film and many hours of television programming, not unlike curtain jerking wrestlers getting booked into a battle royal at Wrestlemania.
The spelunking scenes were tense and scary, paying respects to ALIEN, ALIENS, and even THE DESCENT, and I found myself sitting on the edge of my seat. The overall effects were pretty good. Who cares if the dinos he encounters are reptilian and predators, and who cares if they aren’t scientifically accurate without feathers, and that the T-Rex looked like it had ankylosaurus armor. I can defend all of this with two points:
1- Neither were the movies 65’s creators were inspired by. The dinosaurs need to be one thing: scary. And they were scary, even if some are just a step above the generic MUTOs in Legendary’s MONSTERVERSE. I was reminded of the poison gas field in KONG: SKULL ISLAND at times, but with superior effects and less stylistic camera work.
And 2- see *a review of a movie where a spaceman fights dinosaurs 65 million years ago.
But the asteroid really hit 66 Million years ago. Really, Milo, did you just go there? WHO. CARES. Again… IT’S A *a movie where a spaceman fights dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Calling it 66 wouldn’t work cos it’s too close to 666 and would scare Middle America into thinking it was a horror movie about the devil. Most of America knows the 65 Million years theory. And we all know most of America is… well… stupid.
Outside of the dinosaurs, the film leaves behind some speculation for us, like any good art should do. Were Beck and Woods alleging this is the panspermia event laying the building blocks for human life on earth? This question leads us to another spot where 65 collides with THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT. The latter is much more than an adventure movie set on a lost prehistoric island. The further north you go on the island, the more advance the beings and cultures become. The obvious take back from 65 is the remains of the other cryosleepers become the primordial DNA for us as humans existing on this planet, and I think that’s a neat homage to the Ron Moore BATTLESTAR GALACTICA’s finale with Mitochondrial Eve, more so than say Ridley Scott’s PROMETHEUS and Engineer Jesus. I can’t believe I just typed those foul words.
My only take back from 65 is the characters. I would have liked to see more development with Mills and Koa. Perhaps Mills could have been more vulnerable, using the old plot device of him being an opiate addict should have remained in the film. The original press release in 2020 stated:
Scott Beck and Bryan Woods will direct from their own original screenplay, which is said to feature a supernatural twist. Driver will play an opioid addict who has become a hopeless shadow of his former self. He’s involved in some kind of catastrophic accident, and the only other person to emerge from the crash is a 9-year-old girl who speaks a different language. The two of them must work together to survive.
It may not be a box office hit in a sea of sequels, but it is the one new property in the top 3, so I call that a win for 65. Go see it at your leisure, and if that happens to be when it comes out in home video and streaming, then so be it. It’s dinosaurs vs. spacemen. What is there to dislike?